New football coaches, Thursday games and competitive balance Season 2

The high school football season kicks off with preseason practice starting on Monday. All the other fall sports – cross country, girls volleyball, golf, girls tennis and soccer – begin their preseasons on Wednesday.

Here’s some things to know about area football:

• There are at least 11 new area head coaches at Butler (John Puckett), Dunbar (Corey Freed), Fenwick (Dan Haverkamp), Fort Loramie (Spencer Wells), Lebanon (Matt Hopkins), Meadowdale (Robert Brown), Mississinawa Valley (Steve Trobridge), Monroe (Barak Faulk), Northeastern (Jake Buchholtz), Ponitz (Ryan Jackson) and Preble Shawnee (Dave Maddox).

• Ten area games will be televised live on ABC/Fox 45’s Thursday Night Lights. It kicks off with Alter (9-2 last season) at Fairmont (7-4) in Week 1 on Thursday, Aug. 23.

This will be the third season for the popular series and always ensures a capacity and enthusiastic crowd, not to mention a rare and plentiful opposing coach section.

The games all start at 7 p.m. and will be aired live on channels 45.2, 995 (Spectrum) and 44 (Dish).

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• Also opening on that Thursday is Carroll (1-9) at Stebbins (1-9) in another non-league matchup. New Dunbar coach Corey Freed will make his debut with the Wolverines (8-4) at Columbus St. Francis DeSales (6-4) in the only Saturday, Aug. 25 opener. All other area teams will begin the season on Friday, Aug. 24.

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• This is Season 2 of the competitive balance factor. That’s the landmark decision enthusiastically spearheaded former Ohio High School Athletic Association commissioner Dr. Dan Ross to “level the playing field” between public and private schools in all sports.

Coincidence or not, just one of 14 teams (making up seven divisions) that played in last season’s state championships was private: Akron Archbishop Hoban followed up its 2016 title defeat of Trotwood-Madison by blasting Cincinnati Winton Woods 42-14 in the D-II championship.

The season before competitive balance – 2016 - six private schools played for football state titles.

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• The formula for qualifying to the postseason is simple. Beat as many teams as possible that have winning records. Teams earn first-level points for wins and second-level points for wins by a defeated opponent. Points are based on a sliding scale, with D-I the greatest.

Teams compile computer points and the top eight in each of the 28 regions advance. It takes five games to win a state title, or half a regular season.

The tricky part is forming a schedule that is taxing enough to earn maximum computer points, but not so overwhelming to knock a team out of contention by midseason.

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• Last season the OHSAA lumped the first four rounds of the postseason for every division on Fridays. That one-season trial has ended.

Divisions I, II, III and VI will play on Fridays and Divisions IV, V and VII on Saturdays through the state semifinals. The state championships will all be held at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

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• Teams are allowed 10 coaching days from June through July. Most teams use these up in 7-on-7 passing tournaments and bonding camps, often at a college. Coaches also like to bunch these 10 days as close as possible to the start of the preseason.

Football officially has just a 30-day “dead” coaching period after a season ends. For most programs, year-round and supervised weight lifting is a given and interrupted only for participation in another sport.

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• The end of kickoffs is nearing.

Kickoffs are gone for good at the middle school and freshman levels and will only be used in JV games if both coaches agree to do so.

This was done with a nod to player safety; specifically, to avoid high impact hits and limit the occurrence of concussions.

“Player safety on kickoffs is something being discussed at all levels of football – professional, college, high school and younger,” said Beau Rugg, the OHSAA director of sport management and officiating and the OHSAA’s football administrator. “And at the sub-varsity levels, there isn’t much time spent working on kickoffs, so this will help.”

The OHSAA hasn’t addressed banning kickoffs in varsity games, but that’s next.

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